"Wu Dang" takes place in 1920's China. There is a rumor that secret treasure is hidden in Wu Dang Mountain. An American man, greedy for gold and riches, brings his daughter, a prodigy in martial arts, to compete for a championship title in kung fu combat, while planning to find and steal the riches for himself. It won't be easy. Fierce competition, dedicated protectors, and unexpected romance block the path to the Wu Dang fortune. The closer the treasure hunter gets to his prize, the more elusive it becomes.
This is strictly a movie for martial-arts fans. There is plenty of well-staged action, a simple plot, and passable visual effects. In Mandarin, with English subtitles, the movie begins promisingly enough, but soon sinks under the weight of a weak script.
There is a making-of featurette on the Blu-ray release.
on July 5, 2013
With costumes by Oscar-winning designer Emi Wada, "Wu Dang" is a martial arts action movie that looks great, but lacks in most other ways.
Tang Yunlong (Vincent Zhao) is a treasure-hunting archaeology professor and martial arts fighter trying to locate seven artifacts and one holy sword. Tang Yulong and his daughter Tang Ning (Xu Jiao, who was Stephen Chow's young "son" in "CJ7") travel to a monastery in Wudang Mountains, where a martial arts tournament is about to be held. But there are other warriors looking for the same treasure, including a beautiful female fighter Tianxin (Yang Mi).
The story, which is set in a fictional China in the 1910s, looks like a cross between "Indiana Jones" and "Dragon Ball." Directed by Patrick Leung, the adventure film starts pretty well, but loses its momentum when the competition gets under way. With one dimensional personalities and non-existent back-story of characters, the film does not know what story it is trying to tell.
With actors like Dennis To as the tournament's organizer and Louis Fan as a young monk, as well as Hong Kong choreographer Corey Yuen, the film's old-style martial arts fight scenes (using wires and effects) are acceptable, but not very innovative. I like the film for its nice visuals but obviously "Wu Dang" needs a better story.
In the early days of Hollywood, serials used to play regular in the theatres. Each week, audiences would be treated to a new installment in a tale of blazing action, murderous intrigue, and high adventure! The hero would be a detective or a masked superhero or maybe a space soldier hoping to save the planet from certain doom, and each chapter would end with a cliffhanger meant to guarantee the audience would be back next week to find out how it all wrapped up. Steven Spielberg re-introduced audiences to the format in the early 80's with his popular Indiana Jones series of films, but when imitators couldn't quite capture the formula, the motion picture serial pretty much went bye-bye ... except to re-surface from time-to-time when audiences least expected it.
(Note: the following review may contain spoilers solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you're the kind of smiler who prefers reviews entirely spoiler-free, then I'd encourage you to jump down to the last two paragraphs. Otherwise, buckle up and read on.)
According to legend, Wu Dang mountain conceals some serious treasures. Indeed, a few maps have escaped from the monastery, one falling into the hands of a professor / treasure hunter Tang Yunlong (played by Vincent Zhao). He takes his ailing prodigy daughter, Ning (Xu Jiao), to the mountain to complete in a kung fu championship, but his secret desire is to obtain the hidden seven artifacts for - together - they might hold the secret to curing her sickness. However, a female treasure hunter - Tian Xin (the lovely Yang Mi) - will stand in his way ... unless the two join forces to stop a deadly monk with aspirations of stealing the mysticism of Ying Yang in order to be turned into a god!
And therein lies the problem with WU DANG: all of it sounds much more exciting than it actually ends up.
For the record, I don't believe screenwriter Correy Yuen or director Patrick Leung deliberately intended to evoke the era of the action serial, but I found enough similarities to the classic format that I thought it worth mentioning here and making it the narrative focus of my review. No, it doesn't have the tremendous action pieces that you'd find in an Indiana Jones knock-off or wannabe, but the `flavor' is still present.
Much of WU DANG proceeds from the `scavenger hunt' plot device: several of these characters are drawn to the mountain monastery, and each of them has hopes of uncovering the treasure for their own purposes - one to heal, one to preserve her family's honor, and one in the pursuit of power. I can't help but think if that had been the central driving force behind the picture, then WU DANG could've been something special. However, that doesn't happen, and an awful lot of it descends into standard fighting pieces. Mysticism - while present in significant doses - never really bubbles to the surface. Instead, it's flattened down into the flash and sparkle of special effects, and that cheapens what could've been.
Still, I liked the sentiments. At times, the performances were very good. Having it all flavored with the father/daughter relationship maintained my interest, and the bonus secondary plotline of both father and daughter having a chance to find the `love' that had eluded them in their characters' histories was an added plus.
Plus, it never hurts having a lovely like Yang Mi to fill up the screen!
WU DANG is produced by Mei Ah Film Production Co., Ltd., Lei Ah Media (Beijing) Limited, Xiao Xiang Film Groups, Inc., and China Zhong Dian Media Co., Ltd. DVD distribution (stateside) is being handled by Well Go USA Entertainment. Technically, the film looks and sounds very solid; there's some terrific cinematography in here, and much of the fight choreography is pretty inspired. As is pretty customary with these foreign releases, there really are no significant bonus features to speak of: there's a brief behind-the-scenes featurette (it amounts mostly to production shooting on location) and the theatrical trailer (which does its job of making the feature look much more impressive than it is!).
RECOMMENDED. All I can summon is a mildly ambitious `meh.' WU DANG started strong with hints of an Indiana Jones style serial - the aging professor and his spunky sidekick daughter - mixed in with some fairly impressive fisticuffs. It struggled to maintain that tone consistently, hopping back and forth between its stated desire to feature traditional fight sequences instead of investing more in the magic and mysticism of the secret treasures. Plus, there were some nice moments between father and daughter, as well as a few between daughter and possible new mother, that would've had a stronger payoff had the story focused in more on that angle. It's not entirely disappointing, but, alas, it could've been much more.
In the interests of fairness, I'm pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Well Go USA provided me with a DVD screener of WU DANG for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
on June 23, 2014
This is a well enough done movie - feels very much like the Asian National Treasure and Indiana Jones with wire martial arts and Yin Yang mysticism.
The action sequences are great, and the fight scene in the library was wonderfully choreographed, but there are a few weak spots.
The first is the tournament is not treated very tournament like - it is more of a side bar than the character it needs to be and could have been used more and in better ways.
The sleeping kung-fu was a bit lame, though it was humorous, but that could have been done better as well.
Over all, this was fun, and an enjoyable watch but the re-watch value is depleted once the case is solved.
on June 15, 2013
Ok, this is an old style kung fun type movie BUT....
Action is very poorly done, the fights seem week, no one seems to pack any power at all, everything is soft and gentel.
nothing memorable in any of the fights, the story is an OK story, but really for an action film it ranks very low.
the fights are slow, soft and boring, the plot does not make up for it, and if you wanna see a good martial arts film, dont waste your time on this movie.